If you were one of the TV fans who wanted to love American Horror Story last season but were too squeamish to watch with completely open eyes, ABC’s new devilish drama 666 Park Avenue is going to be the perfect fit for you. And as an added bonus, this one delivers on the “hows” even if not quite the “whys” immediately on-air with just the pilot episode.
666 Park Avenue centers on a luxury building in the heart of Manhattan and its residents and workers. The always on point Terry O’Quinn is at the center as Gavin, the man who holds the secrets to the building. When the pilot opens, he comes collecting on his current apartment manager’s soul, the result of a ten-year deal the man made. But Gavin is not simply a “crossroads demon,” and 666 Park Avenue is not just about trapping randoms within its walls.
Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable are the couple who move in to step in for the missing manager, much to the chagrin of the sure-to-be-up-to-something-too bellhop (Erik Palladino). Admittedly, if he is relegated to his ridiculously old-fashioned uniform for the whole series, it’s going to be a distraction. But Gavin really has his sights set on Annable’s Henry for reasons unknown. O’Quinn’s omnipotent-like presence makes infuses confidence that he can see all the answers, even though we, and the heroes of the show, are kept ignorantly and somewhat blissfully in the dark. His wife Olivia (the flawless Vanessa Williams) knows the way to get to Henry is through his wife, and so the two women strike up an immediately too-intimate-for-New-York-neighbors relationship that really should have you realizing something is terribly wrong. Even before Jane starts having disturbing and dark dreams.
The building is also home to an aspiring playwright (Robert Buckley) and his slave-driver wife (Mercedes Masohn), a klepto kid (Samantha Logan), a mysterious sealed-up room, and some equally mysterious sigils down in the basement. The show gets creepier when you realize that other residents have been brought into Gavin’s web and are trading murderous favors for their deepest desires.
666 Park Avenue is a genre show, for sure, but it is more mystery than supernatural right now, despite the obvious purgatory and hell parallels. Most important to note, though, is that the show draws on some melodramatic relationship moments to propel its characters forward, as well, including Helena Mattsson as a seductive neighbor who works her way into Buckley’s life more permanently, and a seeming secret about the child Olivia lost years earlier. It is in these elements that make it the perfect fit for ABC’s brand.
There is so much information to deliver and so many characters to introduce in this pilot, but the pacing manages to keep your interest and always have you wondering what’s around the corner. It feels like anyone who is still a mystery by the end is supposed to be– because that questions about some suspicious characters lend itself to the genre. For example, is that klepto kid a ghost? Is the bell-hop working with Gavin? How much does Olivia really know about what’s going on and can she be pulling the strings after all? All things the show promises to pay off but not immediately.
666 Park Avenue is really a relationship drama set in a really creepy building. The building isn’t quite its own character yet—but it doesn’t need to be because it is really just a setting in the truest sense of the word—a place for Gavin to feed his souls. As more of the mythology behind Gavin’s dealings and the building’s history is revealed, the building should begin to come more fully alive.
666 Park Avenue premieres on ABC on September 30th 2012 at 10 p.m.
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